Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Beginning a journey

Today is Ash Wednesday when Lent begins.  I love Ash Wednesday.  I love talking about the reality of death. Death is happening, we can't run and we can't hide.

The book that we are using for our Lent series at Greenland Hills UMC is Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes.  Marcia McFee has created a Lenten worship series and one of the stories that she tells for Ash Wednesday is about our own John Thornburg.  John was a pastor at Greenland Hills from 1984-1991.  Marcia shares about an Ash Wednesday service that John wrote about years ago, "I remember an Ash Wednesday service early in my ministry in which one of the durable saints of the congregation graced me with an epiphany.  When I came to her place at the altar rail, I imposed her forehead and said, 'Marjorie, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.' She looked up at me with a tender and discerning glance from her 75 year old eyes, and said, 'THANK GOD.' I had never really thought of mortality as good news, but she did."

The Gifts of the Dark Wood series explores what it means to be in the Dark Wood moments of our lives.  Marcia McFee says, "We are not going to talk about just how to get out of it, as if life is good only when we are not there.  We are going to explore what it might mean for our lives to recognize the gifts of the Dark Wood.  What if times of uncertainty, failure or emptiness are opportunities for spiritual awakening?"

Life can be good during those dark nights of the soul (as Saint John of the Cross called them).  I remember a few years ago in September looking at my calendar and saying aloud, "If I can just make it to November then life will slow down."  Life has not slowed down.  It has just gotten busier.  And yes, the busyness is overwhelming and exhausting and never-ending, but there is good in it.  The image that has been coming to my mind lately of my life is of me treading water.  Treading water and feeling like sometimes my head goes under and I have to struggle to get to the air and breathe.  Taking a sabbath day has helped, but there is so much to do on Mondays.  Laundry, dishes, cleaning, and this past Monday ...  TAXES!  So, this Lent I hope to reimagine myself from treading water to laying back and floating on the water.  I know that the busyness of the kid activities are just for a season.  In seven years our oldest child will be in college.  So, how can I enjoy this time?  How can I breathe in this time?  How can I enjoy my spouse and grow in our own relationship?  How can I grow closer to God amidst the busyness?

Randi Zuckerberg recently tweeted, "The entrepreneur's dilemma: Maintaining friendships.  Building a great company.  Spending time w/ family.  Staying fit.  Getting sleep.  Pick 3."  Sleep, work, family, fitness, friends -- which three would I pick?  I definitely want to sleep, so that is number one.  Then, my family, love them!  And my work, love Greenland Hills UMC!  And I try to fit in fitness and friends as much as I can.  But where does faith fit in?  Am I supposed to just pray without ceasing all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and so faith doesn't count because it is always there?

I am going to commit to journaling this Lent, once a week on Wednesdays, on this blog that I had to dust off.  And I hope to write about those times of uncertainty, failure or emptiness because they are opportunities for spiritual awakening.

I just went downstairs and said hello to some of our preschoolers.  One of the little children asked, "What is that on your face?"  I said, "it is the cross of Jesus."  And she said, "Jesus!" and ran to kindermusik.  Give me Jesus, give me Jesus.  You can have all this world, but give me Jesus... In the morning when I rise, and when I am alone, and when I come to die.  Give me Jesus.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What a day...

There were so many places to be today.  And so many places that I wanted to be, and could not.  The day began as it normally does with the dog wanting to go outside while it was still dark outside.  Then, after everyone was up, dressed, and fed, we went to watch my niece perform for the Destination Imagination Regional Tournament.  Then, off to take my youngest to his soccer game, and one of his friends took him home to their house afterwards because we had to go back to the Destination Imagination Tournament to watch my daughter's team perform.

As they performed their play it was amazing to see how much their team of 4 boys and 3 girls had improved since last year.  Then picked up lunch and we all ate lunch at home together.  Then, off to my daughter's basketball game.  It was a single elimination tournament and if she won this game at noon, then there was a game at 4 and the final tomorrow.  They played great, but lost.

Then, we split up again so I could take my son to his basketball game and my husband could take our daughter back for the instant challenge at the Destination Imagination Tournament.

Now, here is where it gets interesting.  As I was driving the 20 minutes to the next basketball game, I received a call that one of the parents had found a cell phone and they were inquiring if it was ours.  They described my husband's cell phone case!  They said they had given it to the referee, so we quick turned around and ran back to the gym.  The next game was underway so we had to wait for a time-out, so I could ask the referee.  These were not the same referees from 15 minutes before, and they had no idea what I was talking about.  They said we had to get in touch with the office Monday morning.

So, back in the car and the 20 minute drive to the next game.  When we were almost there, the person who found the cell phone called and said that they had actually given it to a parent from the teams that were playing the next game.  That parent was going to take it to the referees.  So, maybe the phone was back at the gym I had left 20 minutes before?

So, back to the gym.  Luckily, my mom is visiting for the weekend and was able to watch Everett during his basketball game.

I found the person who had the phone, drove back to watch Everett's game, then headed home.  I dropped everyone off and then headed to Greenland Hills UMC where I had the great privilege of praying for an Eagle Scout ceremony.

All of that busyness was wonderful and exciting, but there was somewhere else that I wanted to be.  At 2 pm just as I was driving back and forth trying to get my husband's cellphone, there was a wedding.  A wedding that I wanted to be at.  A wedding that more than a dozen of my fellow North Texas clergy attended.  When I read Rev. Mike Baughman's quote in this story, it made me smile.  Mike brought his two children aged 7 and 5 to the wedding.  Mike said, "I'm here as a pastor so that Bill (McElvaney) won't be alone.  I'm here as a father so that my kids will know this (same-sex marriage) is OK."

We have signed our kids up for all of these activities: soccer, basketball, Destination Imagination, because we want to teach them about the joy of sports, the joy of working together as a team, the joy of hard work.  But I also want them to learn about love, and they can learn from Jack and George how to celebrate 53 years together.

Being a parent is hard, exhausting work, but I know that I only have a brief time to teach them.  A year ago my at-the-time 8 year old asked if boys could marry boys and if girls could marry girls.  My response to her was, "Not in Texas."  This fall when my at-the-time 5 year old asked if boys could marry boys and girls could marry girls, my husband's response was, "In some places, yes."

It is not if, it is when.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love."  1 John 4:18

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


A year for milestones...  I will turn 40 (how did that happen?!), my oldest will turn 10 (seriously, how did that happen?), and my mom will turn 70 (fun!).  It should be a great year!

Trips planned:
1. spring break - Lee and I taking our oldest child to Washington D.C.  Our youngest child will be staying with Nana and Papa.
2. summer - south padre with all my mom's children and grandchildren to celebrate her 70th.
3. fall - Rhode Island for a friend's wedding

Activities for me -
handbells - LOVE!
book clubs!
Girl Scout cookie mom - delivery is January 10!
in charge of donuts with dads at the elementary school this spring
training for the Komen 3-day for the Cure (walking 60 miles in 3 days) with my mom for our 5th time

Activities for the kids -
Basketball, volleyball, soccer, taekwondo, selling 1000 girl scout cookies, piano, jazz, church choir

The goal this spring is to eat more at home. With the working full-time transition and the increase in kid activities around dinnertime, I am hoping to be more organized so we can cook more dinners at home instead of eating out.

And more family bike rides!  We had one tonight and they make my heart so happy.

There will be loss this year, there will be tears and there will be sadness, but I am surrounded by love from God, my family, my friends, and my church family.  I am utterly blessed.  May I wake up every day with a heart filled with joy for the gift of life that I have been given that day!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


In July I transitioned from officially working part-time to full-time.  I am still not sure what is harder, going to work everyday or being a pastor-in-charge again.  I forgot how stressful it was to be the pastor-in-charge.  I forgot how much other stuff (taking care of a building, finances, communicating with groups who use the church) occurs during a day.  Today the health inspector came for our preschool.  I had not planned for that...  Thankfully I have an amazing group of folks who work at Greenland Hills UMC.  Seriously, amazing people.  

The last time I was pastor-in-charge and worked full-time we had one kid and she was two years old.  This time around it is seven years later and life has changed.  Two kids both in elementary school with lots of activities.  I decided to go to the church everyday because I pick them up at 3 pm and take them to all of their activities: Dallas children's chorus, girl scouts, taekwondo, ballet, piano, soccer, volleyball.  And a lot of evenings I go back to the church for meetings.  Working full-time with kids is crazy busy no matter what your line of work.  I still have not mastered cooking while working full-time but it is good to have goals :)  And I can't remember the last time our carpets were vacuumed... 

It is hard to complain when I have a job that I love at a church with incredible folks who love God.  It is hard to complain when my spouse Lee helps me make kid's lunches every night.  I am still in awe of single parents, and I give thanks for kids who are supportive, a spouse who is my greatest cheerleader, a sister that sends me flowers on my first day at my new church, parents that will drop anything to come help, and friends who will help carpool.  It takes a village and I am so thankful that I have one. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Children grow up...

Today, for the first time ever, all of the Smiths rode their own bikes on a family bike ride.  Everett still has training wheels but I have not had to push him and help him along as much, so today I said we should try for a family bike ride around the block.  We all got on our own bikes and when we got around the block everyone was doing great, so we kept going!  It was simply awesome.  I brought up the rear and occasionally had to hop down from my bike and give Everett a push, but he did great all by himself.  Madeleine and Lee kept circling back to check on us and they had fun leading the pack.

Everett will start kindergarten in the fall and is becoming more independent every day.  One day last week he didn't want me to tuck him in at night, but I told him he had no say in the matter :)  Children grow up so fast.  And I could not be prouder of my Madeleine and my Everett. 

It seems to me that growing up for a child and letting go for a parent is the process of family life. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Northpark Santa

The real Santa is at Northpark Mall in Dallas, Texas.  Seriously, he is wonderful.  Here is our yearly photo.  The kids are getting tall!
2012 - Everett at 5 and Madeleine at 8 1/2
You can see how much they have grown, check on the photo from 2011 here and previous years here.  Madeleine asked for a password journal (it is a journal that records your voice and only that person can open it) and Everett asked for a beyblade (though he had been saying he would ask for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle set). 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Olympic Gymnastic Champions!

I won tickets from Dallas Child to see the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions.  It was such fun to see these amazing folks in person (though far away).  Madeleine was so excited, she knew the names of all of the female gymnasts and had watched the London Summer Olympics every night.  Here are some pictures that I took.  
Top L to R: Jordyn Wieber,  Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman; Bottom L to R: ? and Nastia Liukin
Men's gymnastics team, they were strong!

A good picture of Nastia Liukin

Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber,  Gabby Douglas